Every once in a while, when looking for something to read, I ask myself, “What is something that I wouldn’t normally read? What just ‘isn’t me’?”
Recently that book was Confessions of a Shopaholic. Cue sneers.
A year or so ago it was The God Delusion, by prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.
Needless to say, I didn’t finish either of them, but did get through quite a bit! Dawkins’ book was intriguing, for sure. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in a world where the other 95% of the population is deluded, so he must feel like a pioneer of sorts. In one sense I appreciated the book. For those who decide to be atheists, or that they always have been, the book is very validating and supportive when people may feel shunned from their families or communities. I also learned a ton about evolution, which is always interesting. I also agreed with a lot of his arguments against the Protestant views of God, which was kind of funny.
What I didn’t like was his arrogant tone that often sounds like, “if you don’t think like I do, then you’re a complete idiot” (or more specifically, mentally ill). Granted, a tone like this makes the book more exciting, but I think Dawkins ultimately shoots himself in the foot in trying to appeal to believers. While trumpeting free and independent thinking on one hand, he tells everyone what they should be thinking.
Back to the title of the post. Recently, Dawkins opened up a summer camp in the UK for atheists. All the usual summer camp stuff (whatever that is… canoeing?), except for instead of Bible study groups, these campers will learn about rational skepticism (good), moral philosophy (very good), and evolutionary biology (great). They will also learn to disprove things like crop circles (fine, but how can they really enjoy any Shyamalan moves then?). The camp will also teach the kids that if they are religious, it may prevent moral behaviour.
What peaked my interest in the article was when Dawkins said the camp was designed to “encourage children to think for themselves,” and the father of two camp attendees said “I’m very keen on not indoctrinating them with religion or creeds.”
The problem I see here is Dawkins (in my experience) most definitely does not encourage people to think for themselves, but rather, to think like he does. Kids at this camp will most certainly be indoctrinated. Keep in mind this is NOT, in any way, an argument against atheism, atheists, non-theists, agnostics, deists, cultists, or otherwise. I only wish to point out that Dawkins’ camp seems a little too similar to Jesus Camp. He smacks of religious fundamentalism, only without the religion. Reading his book felt like debating with a hard-core Calvinist. Different topic, same kick you in the teeth tactics. Calvin may damn you to hell for your views, but that’s sometime in the distant future. Dawkins straight away tosses you into the loony bin.
- Is it possible to teach children without “indoctrinating” them? Is it just part of their development to take everything Authority says in their life hook line and sinker?
- For any atheists and/or agnostics out there, any recommended reading?